Sunday, February 22, 2009

No news is great news

Listen, sorry in advance: I'm about to not tell you something. But it's fantastic.

I'm writing/producing a three-part radio drama called Attachment. It's for Rhubarb Radio in the Midlands, a new internet radio station, and thereafter we're releasing it to iTunes. All this has been bubbling away and I'm obviously very busy, very happy doing it.

But tonight, about twenty minutes ago, I cast one of the parts. Someone has agreed to play a key role in the series and I cannot, cannot tell you who. But if I did, you would now be saying bloody hell. Even bloody hell and a half.

One reason I can't tell you is that it's much more fun this way. But another is that it's schedule-dependent: and this person isn't half busy.  If it cripples me, I will fit around her schedule.

Ooops. There was a clue, wasn't there? Her.

It's all you're getting, I'm afraid.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

24 things about me

I'm so far behind this meme that I had to do something to get you to read, didn't I? It is 24, there's a reason. And you already know all the bits about tagging 25 other people including the geezer who tagged me, right? So, all of that, very good. Now let's play our game:

1. I'm papyrophobic. It means afraid of paper: I am a writer who's afraid of paper. Really that's a bit strong; I don't go around cowering at receipts, despite anything my accountant says. It's more a revulsion and it's only very broadly predictable: I'm fine with A4, for instance, I usually do okay with A5. Post-It notes are so much a problem that even writing this sentence was difficult. Broadsheet newspapers are great until the instant I've bought them. Anyway. Actually, receipts are tricky.

2. I said I'm a writer and so I know that I ought to be saying to you that my inspiration was Shakespeare - and the fella really knew some onions - or Stoppard or someone. I can say both of those and I can add Alan Plater, Aaron Sorkin, many more. Even William Goldman, except that he now irritates me so much I struggle to read his material. But the full truth is that I'm a writer because of Gene Reynolds, Leon Tokatyan, April Smith, Seth Freeman and Michelle Gallery: the writers of Lou Grant.

3. I've failed at least four driving tests but, I believe uniquely, I've also passed twice. Alcohol was not involved: see below.

4. I don't drink. Never have. Even working in a bar, I tried the odd thing, didn't like any of it. For most of my adult life the mantra has been Coke with a curry, Pepsi with a pizza, though my current spherical shape is making me reconsider.

5. I believe I lost my religion when I went to college. Before then, everybody I knew was Irish Descent - I cap that up because at the time I believed that to be an actual term, like Jewish - and they were also all Roman Catholic. At college, nobody else was either of these things and it was fantastic: so many people, so many ideas, such wonderful and wide-open experiences. Pity about the course: I studied computing and envy anyone who got to be immersed in literature instead. I was going to say that it surprises me how useful computing has been, even way over here in another career. But this 25 things lark is a Facebook meme and it took me a day to find where to write it on Facebook, so maybe not.

6. If I've got a song in my head and I stub my toe, catch my finger in a door, do anything physical that involves pain, I don't swear, I just say whatever lyric I've got to. This isn't my being prudish, it isn't calculated, it's entirely involuntary: if you open a door in my face I may well bellow "I'm loving angels instead".

7. I will buy anything by Dar Williams, Suzanne Vega, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen or Paul Auster. Hovering around the automatic purchase are writers like Carrie Fisher, Paul Reiser and Mary Chapin Carpenter. I should do links here, shouldn't I?

8. Half my idiolect is made up of quotes; nothing is especially recognisable ("It's my job, it's what I do" is from a thousand bad TV shows) and usually there's no obvious reason why I've absorbed it. But people who know me very well do report watching ancient films or US sitcoms in the middle of the night and catching phrases they believed were mine. They think it's funny but me, not so much.

9. If you show up at my door, I will be delighted. If I show up at yours, I will have conjured a reason, some practical excuse. It's not you.

10. I'm a patzer. And I'm okay with that. I adore chess, I relish Scrabble, it doesn't mean I'm any good at either of them.

11. I love things that are strawberry, orange or tomato flavoured but I don't like strawberries, oranges or tomatoes.

12. I wish I'd written Veronica Mars. Also Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, obviously.

13. This is the reason there are only 24 things: this one was going to be the shock, but just in time I remembered who could be reading it. I'm going to say phew now.

14. I would not kill to write like Dar Williams. But I'd maim. Please focus: I'm not going to reveal what number 13 was, okay?

15. My favourite place is New York City. I can't tell you why: it's not another secret, it's just that I don't know why. I'm fully aware of its problems, yet when I step out onto its streets, I am taller.

16. I'm a cartography nut. Actually, I'm a drama nut, that's at the heart of most things about me but in this case I am fascinated by seeing how maps purport to tell us directions yet are really revealing so much more about the people who drew them. What they choose to include, what they choose to omit. How big or small they draw enemy countries. The lies, the hopes, the politics. I'm rubbish finding my way on OS maps but I'll bore your teeth off about the fact that it's because it's called Ordnance Survey that the UK is the most-mapped region of the world. Military, doncha know?

17. I believe radio drama can do anything. I'm now producing radio and realising that yep, it's true, but it's bloody hard.

18. I've taken two big gambles in my career and the first one paid off brilliantly. Frightening to think I nearly didn't do it; I could be writing bad computer software even now. It would be really bad: full of surprise plot twists. The second gamble isn't half taking a long time, but I believe the prize is worth it.

19. I am very good at multitasking. Hang on, I also listen, I effortlessly remember birthdays and I've only ever been to half a single football match: I'm not a man at all, am I? Though I have caught myself watching digital TV in the middle of the night and getting too interested in documentaries like Hitler's Pets.

20. This will seem unlikely since I've left it to point 20, but I am more interested in you than I am in me. After all, I've been here, I've seen me do it, I want to know about you instead. Plus, you dress better, and you know you do.

21. If something - a drama, script, prose, film - is somehow right, just, you know, right, it will make me choke. I don't mean sentimental, I don't mean soppy. Just, every piece of work sets out to do something and when it seems to me that it has got there, got there with gusto, I appreciate it the way you might art. You'd never believe some of the things that have done this to me, but there is one Dar Williams song that is so exquisitely done that it has repeatedly left me with hot tears running down my cheeks. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit did it three times: Jeanette Winterson's novel, her screenplay and the BBC TV dramatisation.

22. I'm writing this to you in the bizarre idea that you'd be interested, though, face it, what are the odds you'll read all the way? I'm safe, I can say anything. Except 13, obviously. But still, here we are, 24 things about me, and I also have a blog, a Facebook page and a podcast. In all seriousness, I do have ego and self-worth problems.

23. I am really, really good at reading situations and seeing what's going on - unless I am in any way involved myself. Most of my friends are women, I don't know why but it's statistically noticeable, and so obviously I've had many conversations about rubbish boyfriends. So when I was in college, I went to another university to see a woman I had been besotted with at school: she starts telling me how rubbish her boy is and I automatically go into counselling mode. It took me seven years to realise that the reason she was getting red and exasperated was that she was offering me a chance. I'm relieved to tell you that I think it worked out for the best, but still, it's scary to be so sharp and empathetic yet to have a total blind spot like this. If you fancy me, you have to tell me or I will never know. I promise that I have NHS Direct on speed dial, I can get you the help that you need.

24. I once walked up to a random door at BBC Television Centre, knocked, went in and pitched for work without the slightest idea what was in that office. I didn't get it. But similarly, I once randomly phoned up the Los Angeles Times, said I was in town, and talked my way into a bylined piece in the paper. If you know Lou Grant you know why this was special for me.

25. The last one ought to be a kicker, shouldn't it? But I've already spent my kicks on number 13, so I may have to go with a wimper. What if I tell you that one of these 24 things is a lie? Or what about that boilerplate instruction text that comes with all these and has the line "If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you"? I can't help but read that as "25 is a hell of a big number, I'm running out, you'll do". If you read it that way too, I promise it isn't true this time: see point 20 for details.

Besides, you've no interest in my 25, you just want a good excuse to write yours, don't you? And I want to read it, so everybody wins and it costs us nothing.